Teaching English abroad is a fantastic opportunity to travel to new places, impart valuable wisdom and make some money while you are doing it! But one nagging question that many would-be ESL teachers have is, am I too old (or too young) to teach English abroad?
The answer is: it depends. Each country where English teachers are in demand has different rules and customs surrounding age limits. Even within countries, some schools are eager to hire older teachers, while others will focus on recruiting younger teachers.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at age requirements surrounding teaching English overseas below. Just keep in mind that no matter what your age if you want to become an ESL teacher and travel the world, chances are good that a job is waiting for you somewhere.
What is the minimum age limit for teaching overseas?
This question is an easy one to answer. For almost all teaching English jobs abroad, you will have to be at least 21 years of age to apply. That being said, fluent English speakers can also get jobs as teachers abroad even if they are under 21, but such opportunities are rare.
The best place to go for teaching English if you are over 18 but under 21 is Latin America where hiring younger teachers is fairly common.
Also, you might have luck working as a very young ESL teacher if you combine that job with another one, such as being an au pair or a nanny.
With almost no exceptions, ESL teachers under 21 will only be able to teach children - and not adults - no matter which country they are in.
What is the age limit for teaching in Asia?
Let’s focus next on age limits in Asian countries since that is where the bulk of ESL jobs are on offer. Officially, the maximum age you can teach English in most Asian countries is either 55 or 60, which is when the official retirement age usually kicks in.
In practice, however, the rules surrounding age limits when teaching English in Asia are not that straightforward. In many countries, especially South Korea and Japan, private schools that cater to young children will heavily favor younger ESL teachers who are under 40.
Public institutions, like universities, are much more likely to hire teachers who are in their 40s and 50s. The caveat is that to teach at a university, you will typically need a postgraduate degree, an international English teaching certificate, and/or years of experience as an ESL teacher.
Can I teach English in Asia if I’m over 60?
Absolutely! But be prepared for a long job search.
If you want to teach English in Asia and you are over 60, your best bet is to actually visit schools in person. There are countless ESL schools all over Asia, only a fraction of which actually advertise online. If you are already living legally in the country where you want to teach and you can demonstrate to schools through an in-person interview that you are up to the demands of being an ESL teacher, then you will have a much better shot at landing a job.
What is the age limit for teaching in Europe and the Middle East?
If you don’t have EU citizenship, it is extremely difficult to teach English in Western Europe regardless of your age.
Eastern Europe, on the other hand, is a different story.
While the pay for teachers in Eastern Europe is not great, schools do place a lot of value on hiring candidates with experience. Obtaining English teaching jobs as a mature applicant is certainly possible in countries like Ukraine and Russia.
Most Middle Eastern countries require new employees to be under 60 years old. That being said, schools in the Middle East also put a premium on experience and most will expect applicants to have an MA, which leaves many young teachers ineligible to apply.
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While finding an ESL job is difficult in the Middle East for candidates over 60, the region has many opportunities if you are a licensed educator in your 40s or 50s, especially with UAE Government Schools. Also, the Middle East typically offers the highest paid teaching jobs abroad.
Where else can I teach English if I’m over 60?
As for the rest of the world, your best chance of finding a job if you are a prospective ESL teacher and over 60 is Latin America. Many schools have no age limit in their hiring process and finding employment as a mature teacher typically isn’t difficult.
Many countries in Latin America, especially Ecuador, Mexico and Costa Rica, are also popular retirement spots for North Americans. That means you can enjoy an affordable retirement in a beautiful, sun-soaked country, while also making a little extra money teaching English on the side.
Aside from Latin America, when looking for an ESL job overseas try to think beyond the most obvious choices. Places like Japan, South Korea, and China have a huge demand for ESL teachers, but when trying to find work there you will be competing with thousands of English teachers who are in their 20s and 30s.
Countries that often fall off the radar for ESL job applicants, like Uzbekistan, India and Bhutan, are often open to hiring mature teachers. The pay may not always be phenomenal in such places, but if it’s adventure and a rewarding experience that you are looking for, teaching in these countries offers amazing opportunities.
Just remember, no matter your age, teaching abroad is an enriching experience and a chance to change your life, along with the lives of those around you. Finding an ESL job as a mature teacher isn’t always easy. However, if you persevere and keep yourself open to new opportunities, there is bound to be a job somewhere in the world with your name on it!